Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Most Interesting Wrestlers of 2012

Barbara Walters does, or at least she used to do, her "Most Fascinating People of [insert year here]" list around this time every year. I think that's a pretty neat feature for me to unequivocally rip off borrow, as there have been plenty of interesting personalities in pro wrestling. Here are my Most Interesting Wrestlers of 2012.

Ouch, Ms. Kay. Ouch!
Photo via @allysin_kay
Allysin Kay - It's funny that something that in the moment seems like a screw up actually turns out to be maybe the biggest net positive of a wrestler's career. As Kay wrestled in what seemed to be an innocuous contendership match against Mia Yim as a replacement because Cherry Bomb no-showed Absolute Intense Wrestling's Girls Night Out 5. Then, Yim broke Kay's nose. By accident, of course, but still, the results were gruesome. Then the AIW Women's Champion, Mickie Knuckles, got pregnant, vacating the title. The confluence of of all those accidental things conspired not only to create the Girls Night Out brand's signature feud of the year, but it helped Kay break out as a solo star in her own right. Plus, it gave us this pic.

Davey Richards - Richards seems to be the wrestling equivalent to abortion or gay marriage. People seem to only have strong feelings either way about him. This year was way more powder-keggy than usual. Richards was a tireless roadtripper in 2012, going anywhere and everywhere that would have him. It landed him in companies both heard of and obscure, where he wrestled everyone from Kevin Steen and Finlay to Sami Callihan and Willie Mack all the way down the line to Fred Yehi and Davey Vega. He pretty much helped make Michael Elgin into the polished threat he is right now.

But then there were the no-shows, the accusations from bookers, and the general sour behavior. The rotten cherry on the shit sundae was the well-documented incident in Iowa where bookers accused him and his entourage of skipping out with their money without wrestling. It's undeniable he stirred up shit this year, but it's hard to look at his in-ring contributions and not think he was doing good either. Nothing is ever really in black and white anyway.

Pro wrestling at its finest
Photo Credit:
Kane - The face behind the mask is usually the most intriguing part of any facially obscured wrestler. For Kane, the opposite was true. When he came back in his mask at the very end of last year, there was actually a general excitement about his character, if just for novelty's sake. His desire to have John Cena embrace the hate wasn't exactly the best executed, but for real, was it all that bad anyway? It resulted in some of the best cheesy horror parody as well as the absurdity of Kane attacking Cena in front of sheikhs in a tall office building in the UAE. That is pro wrestling, right?

And of course, it bears repeating that Team Hell No's story arc couldn't have been done without Kane playing the demented pseudo-straight man. It's a shame WWE didn't really tap into what made Kane work as a character until the very end of his career. In 2010, he was great when he was a cerebral, SAW-like torturer. In 2012, he was great the guy who used his fucked-up past as fodder for psychoanalysis. It's almost tragic if it wasn't such glorious television.

Jazz - Jazz was just kinda floating around the scene until Anarchy Championship Wrestling booked her for the Queen of Queens Tournament. One well-received match with Rachel Summerlyn later, and they were booking an entire new promotion around her. Okay, maybe that wasn't exactly how it went down, but SHINE's debut just happened conveniently to arise when Jazz's name was thrown back into the mix. Of course, that has gone extremely well. Her feud with Mercedes Martinez has done tons to put the company on the map as something different than just "SHIMMER's farm territory/'regular season.'" She was the original anti-Diva, and she's proving now that she can definitely hang with the generation of wrestlers she in no small part helped inspire.

Brock Lesnar - I don't know what's more interesting about him - the fact that he came back or that WWE is utilizing him in a way that whatever money he signed on for has been a total steal. Are they deferring his salary to Paul Heyman? Who the hell knows. What was best about him though was that in his first two matches back in the biz since that short stint in Japan he did, he was able to pump some buzz into John Cena, even if just for a night, and he was able to make an entire crowd take a shit on a false flag farewell for Triple H. Both are very noteworthy events.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Blurring the lines?
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Drew Gulak - Combat Zone Wrestling has gone through somewhat of a renaissance recently. To say it's in large part due to Gulak's politician-like campaign to clean up the Zone might be selling short the roles of those like Greg Excellent, Masada, Mia Yim, Adam Cole, and Sami Callihan. However, it got my attention, and usually, I couldn't care less what happened there. Is it self-serving? Well yeah, but then again, this isn't a list of who's best, it's who's most interesting to me. He was great in Beyond as well, but I think CZW needed their anti-hardcore Mick Foley analogue. Gulak's the right guy to carry on that tradition.

Mike Quackenbush - So, Quack made the news in ways he probably didn't want to. When Chris Hero's "Best of the Indies" shoot dropped, the Quack-as-a-dick meme spread like wildfire for a hot second. I was taken aback by it because my only experience with the man personally was probably the most positive, informative meeting a fan could have with a wrestler/booker. But then again, he's also admittedly got OCD, so I can see how he'd be off-putting in the wrong situation.

But backstage beefs happen all the time. What made his special was that they somehow added to the Gekido storyline. I dunno whether it was coincidence or whether Quack was doing the whole worked-shoot thing, but whatever it was, when the interlopers were looking to expose Chikara's true face, the comments and accusations from out of character rang true in the story. It was the brilliant kind of line-toeing that separates Chikara from the majority of pro wrestling companies.